The world of winter steelheading has gone crazy for Skagit heads, and for good reason: these shorter heads can chuck some heavy junk to distant and deep lies, not to mention these heads load in tight conditions and fly well despite stiff winds.
But Skagit head's compactness can be their downfall, especially on big uniform water. If you're sending 80 to 100 foot casts all day with a 25 foot head, you're stripping 55 to 75 feet of line back to you between each cast. Over the course of the day, that's maybe an hour or more of fishing time spent stripping line--not swinging flies. Plus, the more running line in the water, the more likely you are to snag a guide or a stick or your boot during the cast.
Enter Nextcast's Winter Authority.
Nextcast Lines are the brainchild of tournament caster Simon Hsieh, who has twice won the Spey O Rama casting competition. His lines consistently place in the top five at major casting competitions, and if you check the reels of Northwest steelhead guides, you'll find his creations.
The Winter Authority comes in two sizes, the 45' head built for 12' tips and the 55' head built for 15' tips. These heads loop into your running line and will throw small to medium-sized flies and light to moderate tips a mile.
These aren't Skagit heads, and they aren't built to be cast with sustained anchor techniques, though they can be made to cast in this manner. They excel in touch-and-go scenarios, which makes them much faster to reposition for a new swing than Skagit heads. Strip to the head, use a single spey, and you're fishing again.
Unlike Skagit heads, which have a substantial amount of their mass at the rear end and hence need to be stripped right to the connection with the running line, the Winter Authority has its mass spread over more of its length. As a result, the line tends to cast best when stripped to within 2-3 feet of the head; that overhand helps load the rod. With your Winter Authority, experiment with the overhang until you've found a distance that consistently produces tight loops with your casting style.
The Winter Authority isn't a go-everywhere do-everything head--I've found it to struggle when casting heavy tips like T-14 or when throwing heavy flies like rabbit leeches--but if you're looking to fish big water this winter with 2-4 inch flies and T-8 or T-11, and you want to spend more time swinging and less time stripping, give the Winter Authority a try. You'll be pleased.
The Winter Authority 45 and 55 are available as heads only, and retail for $89.